There are plenty of ways to get hurt in a big city like Boston. But what allegedly happened to a Harvard Business School graduate who was visiting Boston Common three years ago sounds like the kind of injury that could have only happened centuries ago.
A. Michael Davallou, a life sciences and high-tech consultant from Los Angeles, claims in a $10 million personal injury lawsuit that his hearing was altered forever when he stumbled upon a ceremony in which military artillery was fired in the historic park.
His lawyer says the salute was so deafening that Davallou, 45, lost 30 percent of his hearing and developed tinnitus, or constant ringing in his ears.
“There’s no real need for cannon fire,” said the lawyer, Scott E. Charnas. “It’s actually destructive to people.”
Davallou last month sued the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts and one of its officers, Emery A. Maddocks Jr., in federal court in Boston, alleging they acted negligently by firing artillery that produced noise and sonic waves capable of causing injury. Davallou referred questions to Charnas.
Maddocks did not return phone calls, and a lawyer for the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts declined to comment.
Davallou was visiting Boston for his Harvard Business School reunion on June 1, 2015, when he came upon the “Change of Command Ceremony” on Boston Common, his lawyer said.
Before entering the public park, Davallou didn’t know that artillery would be fired, Charnas said. His client heard a blast that caused ear pain and left him dazed, he said.
Davallou walked away from the area where the artillery was fired and entered the Boston Public Garden, where he heard a second blast, his lawyer said.
Later that day, Davallou flew to Los Angeles. On June 2, 2015, a doctor diagnosed him with hearing loss, and about two weeks after that, Davallou learned he had tinnitus, Charnas said.
In 2016, Davallou hired an engineer to measure the sound from the artillery fire at the military company’s annual ceremony on Boston Common.
Sound waves from the artillery fire at that event exceeded 142 decibels, Charnas said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website says noises registering 120 decibels and higher can cause pain and ear injury. In Boston, the municipal code says noises louder than 70 decibels are considered “unreasonable and excessive.”
“It’s almost impossible for people to be exposed to noise at those levels and not have some damage to their auditory system,” Charnas said. “Everyone who stands too close to the . . . howitzers is probably going to sustain some damage to their ears whether they recognize it or not.”
Before he filed the lawsuit, Davallou wrote to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts about his concerns, but the group was dismissive, Charnas said.
On its website, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company describes itself as a military organization chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1638 to train officers to serve in different militias.
In its current form, the group focuses on historic preservation and celebrating patriotic traditions, the website said.
The organization has a permit to hold its annual ceremony June 4, a city official said. This year, there are no plans for artillery fire because the Massachusetts National Guard isn’t available to assist with the festivities, according to a mayoral spokeswoman.
A National Guard spokeswoman said the 101st Field Artillery Regiment will be doing its annual training in New York.Laura Crimaldi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.